Hello! Welcome to my blog about cosplay! If you’re new to this hobby, cosplay is when people dress up as characters from your favourite comics, movies, games and more!
As far as hobbies go, cosplay is very diverse and has a lot of amazing aspects to it. It’s definitely one of those hobbies where you do you; it can be as casual or as serious as you want it to be. You’re totally in control of how you make the most of it and enjoy it.
Whether you’re a newbie, a curious parent or a seasoned cosplayer, this post aims to highlight some of the basics of cosplay and how to get involved!
These are the topics covered in this post – you can keep scrolling to read it all, or click on the links below to jump to each section!
What is Cosplay?
Cosplay is made up of the words “costume” and “play”. It’s a hobby where you dress up as your favourite characters and roleplay as them while in costume!
The name cosplay was coined in Japan, but the term is popular worldwide and covers all different origins, not just Japanese ones.
There are lots of ways to get a costume! You can make them yourself, modify existing clothes or buy them. Lots of people start off buying costumes, moving on to crafting their own – I started out with costumes my mum and sister made for me before learning to make them myself.
Remember, it is cosplay – some people like to dress up for a while and keep it casual without much roleplay involved, but some people love to embody their characters and will act all day! It’s all about personal preference.
So.. now we know what cosplay is, why would you do it?
Cosplay is a great way to meet new people and have fun with new friends! Whether it’s at local events or fan meetups, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people with the same interests with lots of great ways to get involved in new groups via social media. As with any situation, you should always be careful when meeting new people, but know that there are some great new friends out there!
Learn New Skills
This wasn’t something I ever considered when I began cosplaying.. but it’s true! Whether you wear costumes at events, exclusively for photoshoots or via social groups online – there are lots of great new skills to learn. I categorise these into three types of skills;
CREATIVE e.g. sewing, painting, sculpting, foamsmithing, hairdressing
VISUAL e.g. makeup, posing, photography, editing, social media
LIFE SKILLS e.g. budgeting, time management, planning, patience
Editing selfies, posing in the mirror, making lists of materials; little by little, everything you do helps grow new skills!
Share Your Passion
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube; there are so many ways to cosplay without going to events! Lots of cosplayers have active social media presences with dedicated profiles to share their work and again – it’s a great way to connect with people and to find inspiration for your own work. I use a lot of social media profiles myself and frequently look through tags on Instagram to get inspiration for makeup or which materials to use!
Personally, I just love making things – when I was younger, I used to draw a lot of fanart which progressed into cosplay. Expressing creativity through cosplay is really fulfilling, where you can really bring characters to life!
Deciding to Cosplay
Once you’ve decided to cosplay, it’s time to figure out.. why are you doing it? Let that be your motivation! Then you can move on to the exciting part – deciding who to be!
Choosing A Character
Nobody can tell you who to be. You can always ask for suggestions, but ultimately the choice is yours! Do you want to be someone you look like? Maybe a character you adore? The options are endless. Lots of characters are popular for a reason and you can choose whoever you’d like to be!
The first thing I advise is do some research. This sounds very serious, but it doesn’t have to be! Take a look at what the character is wearing and figure out what you need – are you going to make it yourself or buy it, and if so, where from? Do you need a wig? How about shoes? Do they have a prop? Make a list first, it makes it much easier!
If your character has accessories, think about how you’re going to get them. If they’re simple you may be able to find something suitable in a shop, otherwise, are you going to make it yourself? If you want to buy them, where will you get them from? Consider things like these before committing to a costume incase it becomes too complicated.
Know Your Limits
On that note, cosplay can be expensive. Know your limits! It’s a hobby, don’t let it become a financial strain. Some costumes will cost much more than others, and attending events can be pricey too. Be responsible and choose something within your budget – or if you want to do a bigger project, plan it over a longer period of time and only attend events you can afford!
I’d advise against starting with something over-ambitious. Consider what your current skills are and how much time you are willing to dedicate to your costume – there’s nothing wrong with starting small!
There are lots of options if you decide to buy a costume and it’s easier than ever thanks to lots of online sellers!
Finding A Costume
The two main ways to buy costumes is either as a pre-made costume or as a custom commission. Pre-made costumes are easily available online and are made to default fittings, while commissions are made to your exact measurements and are made as one of a kind pieces. Whichever you decide to use, make sure you know which character you want first!
These can be bought from online stores or second hand from sales groups. They’re great for casual cosplayers, beginners and to have matching groups; nobody has to worry about making their own costume, and everyone is guaranteed to match if you order from the same place! Depending on the design, it can also be cheaper than making it yourself!
These are custom pieces made for you! Can’t find the character you want to be premade? A commissioner will be able to make it for you!
They are more expensive because you are paying for the commissioner’s time and skills, so keep that in mind! In my experience it’s best to browse for commissioners, explore their portfolio and message them privately if you want something custom made to get a quote first. If you have specific materials in mind this is the best way to guarantee you will get what you want.
Plan In Advance
Most pre-made costume stores have at least a 1 month wait, and commissioners will depend on their personal availability. I recommend browsing for costumes at least 3 months in advance of an event to make sure everything arrives on time and you have time to make adjustments if needed.
Lots of costumes can be made up from store-bought clothing, which you can cut up and modify! A lot of my early costumes were made by modifying clothes from stores or charity shops to match a character.
The first thing I recommend is looking at clothes you already have to understand how they “work” – where do the lines meet? What shapes make up the clothes you wear every day? Once you have a basic understanding of how clothes go together, it’s much easier to adjust pieces to match a character design.
Look at your costume and understand what you will need to recreate it first. Some costumes are really easy to make from store bought clothes – characters like Lara Croft (Tomb Raider) are easily made from bought tank tops, cargo pants and a little bit of dirt, and characters like The Joker (Batman) can be modified from second hand suits and a bit of paint. Breaking down their costumes and understanding what you will need first makes browsing for suitable clothes much faster.
Look in physical stores to see what you can find – places like supermarkets and Primark are ideal when looking for basic pieces to adjust for costumes, and charity shops are cheap and accessible too! They also sell basic shoes and accessories you might need to complete your costume.
As with any costume, it’s worth looking at how other people have made the same costume and taking inspiration from good ideas people have or clothes they may have adapted to work. There are often guides and examples of what to buy for individual characters available on Tumblr or Instagram.
It’s impossible to teach someone how to make costumes through a single blog post, but rest assured: it’s not as scary as it seems!
Depending on what you want to make, think about how you’d need to make it. Is it a dress? Then it’s time to learn to sew. Is it armour? DIY skills will come in handy then. Does it have accessories or jewellery? There are lots of skills – figure out what you need to learn first and then plan how you’re going to learn it and what you might need to get started.
Ask For Help
It’s always worth asking if anyone you know already knows the basics of what you want, who is willing to show you how to get started. I learned the basics of sewing from my mum. If you don’t know anyone who can help you, there are lots of other options; you can take specialised classes, find online tutorials, watch video guides or find local hobby groups that may be able to teach you the basics.
Never underestimate the power of Google. If there is something you’re not sure about, do some searches and see what comes up – whether it’s technical or not, it’s best to be prepared! There’s no such thing as a silly question and chances are, plenty of people have asked the same ones you might have.
Give It A Go!
You can always just give it a go and see what happens! Most of what I’ve learned is from trial and error, just giving it a shot and seeing if it works. It’s not the most efficient method but it sure is effective! I started making costumes by tracing around my own clothes with a pen and seeing what worked. If that didn’t work, I looked at buying patterns or asking friends for advice and help and adjusted what I’d already made from there.
There are lots of companies now which produce helpful guides to get cosplayers started; most commercial sewing pattern companies have dedicated “costume” patterns (some are officially endorsed!), and you can find custom patterns and guides available via Etsy or Instagram too with recommendations on materials.
Makeup & Wigs
Once you have a costume ready, don’t forget about the extras that really make it shine: makeup and wigs!
I recommend at least learning the basics of makeup and wig styling to anyone interested in cosplay – it makes a huge difference when you wear your costumes, and makes you feel much more confident when wearing it too! There are a lot of amazing resources available online that even beginners can learn, if you have no experience with makeup or hairstyling outside of cosplay.
Cosplay makeup is as important as any other piece of your costume. It helps polish the overall look of your costume, makes your skin look smoother (or grittier, depending on who you’re cosplaying!) and it will make wigs look more natural. Cameras don’t lie, but makeup does and you will look much better in photographs!
If you are interested in learning more about cosplay makeup, please check out my dedicated post here: Cosplay Makeup!
Wigs are great! You can wear them more than once, style them permanently and choose to sell them once you’re done with them! They come in a massive range of colours and are easy to style, with lots of great tutorials available online.
Invest in decent wigs. There are some fantastic sellers including Coscraft (UK-based) which sell excellent quality wigs in a great range of styles, catered to cosplayers! Cheap wigs look cheap and won’t last as long.
Lots of cosplayers have dedicated social media profiles and pages for their costumes! Social media adds a new dimension to cosplay, where you can cosplay whenever you want – not just at organised events!
The most common social media profiles people have are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s easy to share photos, selfies and progress with people with easy updates and hashtags. Some cosplayers branch out into using livestreaming and video services like Twitch, TikTok and YouTube – if you are interested in roleplaying, they’re quick and easy ways to share your costumes online!
Most cosplayers (myself included) use social media for contact. I value my privacy, so having a public page I can direct people to is much easier than handling requests from strangers on my personal profile. It’s also nice to have a dedicated place to upload progress, selfies and photos where anyone can see it!
It’s also handy to have social profiles to let people know what you’re working on and which events you will be attending next!
Some cosplayers like to use social media to display galleries of their costumes, and there are multiple social media websites built for this. The main one I use is CosplayIsland, a UK based cosplay website where you can post costumes, progress and finished photographs of your work for people to browse. Some of us have dedicated websites too (like this one)!
Taking photos of your costume and sharing them online is a big part of cosplay culture. Many cosplayers do dedicated photo shoots with friends and photographers, looking their very best!
I love cosplaying at events and seeing people, but social media means that it doesn’t have to be exclusive to events – any time you feel like testing out a costume, putting on some makeup or trying a new wig, you can! You can share that with people any time you want instead of a handful of days in the year.
Cosplay competitions are a great way to improve your skills and get valuable feedback on your projects! It’s also a great way to meet others with the same passion for cosplay as yourself.
Competing is a step that takes it from a fun, lighthearted hobby to something much more involved – some competitions are simple walk ons, while some require detailed pre-planning and stage performances.. and some will take you across the world to compete in international finals!
I usually divide competitions into three categories; local, national & international. Each category has different standards, prizes and target audiences – so if you’re interested in competing, there’s something for everyone no matter your skill level.
Admittedly competing isn’t for everyone, and that’s fine – even if you don’t want to take part, you can enjoy watching them instead!
Local events often have a masquerade and competition where you can sign up on the day. Any skill level is welcome. Some will allow any costume to enter, not just handmade ones (but it’s best to check with the organisers first). When on stage, you can pose or do a short performance to show off your costume!
Most don’t have dedicated slots to speak to judges for local competitions. Instead you are judged from afar by how you appear on stage, so make it count!
Prizes for local competitions vary; some may give small cash prizes, but most give prizes supplied by sponsors. Local competitions are a fun, easy way to get involved if you’re new to competing.
National competitions are bigger and better! Many national competitions offer cash or vouchers and shiny trophies for winners. Most are hosted at larger expo-style events and the competition is integrated into the cosplay masquerade.
To compete, you usually have to sign up in advance explaining who you are and what you are entering with. Your costume must be handmade to enter (typically, at least 75% of your costume has to be handmade to be eligible, but this can vary; always check the rules first).
Most will give you a time slot to speak to the judges where you can explain your costume and provide progress photos. Some competitions request that you submit progress photos – these help prove that your costume is handmade, so if you’re planning to compete don’t forget to take photos as you go!
Even if you don’t win anything, it’s worth asking the judges for feedback once the competition is over – their comments will help you understand what worked, what didn’t, and how you can improve your next competitive project!
Some national events will also expect you to do a stage performance as part of your entry – always check the rules so you don’t miss out on any important info or submission deadlines!
Now for the big guns! International competitions are just that – competitions that allow you to travel internationally, compete and represent cosplay for your country!
Most competitions will have a dedicated qualifier in your country, if your country is eligible. If you attend and compete in the qualifier and win, you become the representative for that year! The process is very similar to how national competitions run, with a thorough judging process and stage performance to determine who wins the qualifier.
The big examples of international competitions are World Cosplay Summit, European Cosplay Gathering, EuroCosplay, Clara Cow’s Cosplay Cup, Cosplay World Masters, International Cosplay League, CICAF & C2E2. Phew!
As you can see, there are quite a few competitions around and they all have different audiences, criteria, rules and expectations; many of the competitions listed above have options for group entries as well as solo, too. If you are interested in competing internationally do some research first, check out the rules and decide which competition suits your style!
International competitions can give you amazing experiences. Many of the competitions have additional activities for participants to enjoy rather than just a competition – World Cosplay Summit runs for 10 days in Japan, with multiple parades and events to enjoy during your stay. It’s much more than “just a competition”!
Do note that competing can be expensive – aside from your costume, you need to consider travelling and staying for the qualifier and then if you win, affording to stay for the finals. Most competitions will cover your travel and hotel for set days but you will still need to set money aside to be able to afford to enjoy your stay!
More Than A Hobby?
There are lots of ways you can make money through cosplay – either from selling commissions, print sales and accessories, or from dedicated sponsorships, YouTube, Ko-Fi or Patreon.
Selling Your Skills
This applies to anything you can sell – costume and accessory commissions or prints are the most common for cosplayers to market. Depending on your skill level it’s very common for people to sell accessories they make to match costumes or fandoms to fund their own hobby (for example; many Final Fantasy cosplayers sell Moogle or Chocobo toys, hats or themed accessories).
Most cosplayers advertise sales via Facebook or Instagram, but there are also lots of websites that allow private sales from artists including Etsy, Storenvy and Tictail.
Dedicated Sponsors usually give stock in exchange for promotion on social media; many cosplayers receive contact lenses, costumes and wigs from brands, some with custom discount codes for customers. It’s rare to receive money from dedicated sponsors, but it’s definitely a good way to save money investing in materials if they have something you’re interested in.
Ko-Fi is like an internet tip jar, where people can “buy you a coffee” to support what you do! It’s not going to make you millions, but it’s an easy way to support your hobby and a nice way for people show support. I have a Ko-Fi account myself if you’d like to support me, too!
Patreon is a little different – people who follow you can choose to pay you a monthly subscription cost in exchange for exclusive content. It’s a great way to make money from cosplay, but it relies on you having a large enough following who are willing to pay you for content as well as you being able to providing good enough content regularly, which can be a much bigger task than people expect.
Patreon also depends on what sort of cosplayer you are. Very few people will pay monthly for low quality selfies – you need to have good quality content to sustain it. As far as I can see, there are also two types of cosplayer that thrive on Patreon – experienced creators (providing tutorials, guides, progress photos, advice and 1-to-1s), and models (providing prints, photo sets, behind the scenes, custom requests & some offer mature content/”lewds”).
Patreon is certainly not an option for everyone, but there is a lot of potential for cosplay content if you have the right audience. However, don’t feel pressurised into making content you aren’t comfortable with – you don’t need to have a Patreon to “be a cosplayer” – do your own thing and be happy!
Please note that cosplay is not a career I recommend or encourage people to aim for; very few cosplayers become “famous” or manage to make a viable career from cosplay. It is however a big part of modern cosplay culture, which is why I included it in this post. Be realistic and don’t ditch your dreams to pursue cosplay as a career!
Cosplay is such a unique hobby – it’s a wonderful escape from everyday life and a great way to express your love for a character or series and your creativity! There is no right or wrong way to enjoy cosplay.. whether you buy it or make it, you do it once a year or every weekend – you do you!
This post was intended to be an introduction to cosplay and some of the things it encompasses – there is so much more to cosplay than I’ve managed to fit in here. Apologies if I’ve missed anything!
I will be making additional posts dedicated to different aspects of cosplay soon which I’ll link to here as they are added. In the meantime, enjoy!
If you like my work, you can support me on Ko-Fi!
Thank you for popping by! If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact me via any of my social media;